On The Spot: Should States Give Illegal Aliens Driver's Licenses?

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - In a Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York seemed to straddle the issue when she was asked whether she supported a plan by New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

"What Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform," she said at first. Then she said: "I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it."

When host Tim Russert tried to clarify whether she was for or against Spitzer's plan, she said: "This is where everybody plays 'Gotcha.' It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He's dealing with a serious problem. ... Do I think it's the best thing for any governor to do? No. But I understand the sense of real desperation trying to get a handle on this."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a rival candidate in the debate, said of Clinton's answer: "I couldn't tell whether she was for it or against it."
Cybercast News Service hit Capitol Hill Wednesday to ask members of Congress whether they supported Spitzer's policy.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), whose state neighbors New York, said (Hear Audio), "It's an outrage to provide licenses to people who are here illegally. That gives them legal status. How can you give them the right to drive here legally?"

Other members of Congress were less assertive on the matter.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he agrees with presidential candidate Christopher Dodd, the senior senator from his state, who said during the Tuesday Democratic debate Spitzer?s policy on driver?s licenses went "too far."

"I think it's appropriate to approach driver's licenses as a privilege, not simply as a right," Murphy said (Hear Audio). "I think we ought to be pretty careful in how we give them out. ... Nobody has asked me about it before. I haven't had time to look at it before so I probably should come down one way or the other."

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) was also reluctant to make a clear statement against the matter but certainly didn't endorse the Spitzer decision.

"I know there has been a controversy in the last few days that Gov. Spitzer is doing that or the state legislature doing that or whatever is going on up there, but I'm not focusing on that," Pryor said (Hear Audio). "Really, it's an issue of first impressions for me. I know driver's licenses are not a right. It's a privilege a state grants. I would have to look at that and think about that."

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